If there's one thing in the world the food industry is dead set against, it's allowing you to actually maintain some level of control over what you eat. See, they have this whole warehouse full of whatever they bought last week when they were drunk that they need to get rid of -- and they will do so by feeding it all to you. And it doesn't matter how many pesky "lists of ingredients" and consumer protections stand between you and them.
#6. The Secret Ingredient: Wood
You know what's awesome? Newspaper. Or, to be precise, the lack thereof. The Internet and other electric media have all but eaten up classic print media, with the circulations of almost all papers on the wane. Say, do you ever wonder what they do with all that surplus wood pulp?
"But Cracked," you inquire, "what does this have to do with food ingredients?"
For the purposes of this article, you're kind of an idiot.
And we look at you squarely in the eye, then slowly bring our gaze upon the half-eaten bagel in your hand.
Oh, shit ...
The best part of waking up, is wood pulp in your face!
And everybody's doing it. Aunt Jemima's pancake syrup? Cellulose. Pillsbury Pastry Puffs? Cellulose. Kraft Bagel-Fuls? Fast-food cheese? Sara Lee's breakfast bowls? Cellulose, cellulose, goddamn cellulose.
Et tu, Hot Pockets?
It turns out that cellulose can provide texture to processed foods, so food companies have taken to happily using it as a replacement for such unnecessary and inconveniently expensive ingredients as flour and oil. As the 30 percent cheaper cellulose is edible and non-poisonous, the FDA has no interest for restricting its use -- or, for that matter, the maximum amount of it that food companies can use in a product. It is pretty much everywhere, and even organic foods are no salvation -- after all, cellulose used to be wood and can therefore be called organic, at least to an extent.
But the worst thing about cellulose is not that it's everywhere. The worst thing is that it is not food at all. Cellulose is, unlike the actual, normal food items you think you're paying for, completely indigestible by human beings, and it has no nutritional value to speak of. If a product contains enough of it, you can literally get more nutrients from licking the sweet, sweet fingerprints off its wrapper.
That loaf and the chopping block have an equal wood content.
#5. Zombie Orange Juice
Quick, name the most healthy drink your nearest store has to offer. You said orange juice, didn't you? It's what everybody makes you drink when you get sick. Hell, that shit must be like medicine or something. And the labels are always about health benefits -- the cartons scream "100 percent natural!", "Not from concentrate!" and "No added sugar!"
"Less than four thumbs per gallon!"
And why not believe them? When it comes to making the stuff, orange juice isn't sausage. You take oranges, you squeeze oranges, you put the result in a carton, with or without pulp. End of story, beginning of deliciousness.
But what if we told you that "freshly squeezed" juice of yours can very well be a year old, and has been subjected to stuff that would make the Re-Animator puke?
Tropicana's bottling room. Not pictured: Anything orange.
Ever wonder why every carton of natural, healthy, 100 percent, not-from-concentrate orange juice manages to taste exactly the same, yet ever so slightly different depending on the brand, despite containing no additives or preservatives whatsoever?
The process indeed starts with the oranges being squeezed, but that's the first and last normal step in the process. The juice is then immediately sealed in giant holding tanks and all the oxygen is removed. That allows the liquid to keep without spoiling for up to a year. That's why they can distribute it year-round, even when oranges aren't in season.
Thanks to science, we can enjoy screwdrivers from Christmas to the 4th of July.
There is just one downside to the process (from the manufacturers' point of view, that is) -- it removes all the taste from the liquid. So, now they're stuck with vats of extremely vintage watery fruit muck that tastes of paper and little else. What's a poor giant beverage company to do? Why, they re-flavor that shit with a carefully constructed mix of chemicals called a flavor pack, which are manufactured by the same fragrance companies that formulate CK One and other perfumes. Then they bottle the orange scented paper water and sell it to you.
And, thanks to a loophole in regulations, they often don't even bother mentioning the flavor pack chemicals in the list of ingredients. Hear that low moan from the kitchen? That's the Minute Maid you bought yesterday. It knows you know.
#4. Ammonia-Infused Hamburger
Any restaurant that serves hamburger goes out of its way to reassure you how pure and natural it is. Restaurant chains like McDonald's ("All our burgers are made from 100 percent beef, supplied by farms accredited by nationally recognized farm assurance schemes") and Taco Bell ("Like all U.S. beef, our 100 percent premium beef is USDA inspected, then passes our 20 quality checkpoints") happily vouch for the authenticity of their animal bits. Their testaments to the healthiness and fullness of their meat read out like they were talking about freaking filet mignon.
Above: Gourmet as balls.
And aside from the rare E.coli outbreak, the meat is clean. It's how they get it clean that's unsettling.
Ammonia. You know, the harsh chemical they use in fertilizers and oven cleaners? It kills E.coli really well. So, they invented a process where they pass the hamburger through a pipe where it is doused in ammonia gas. And you probably never heard about it, other than those times that batches of meat stink of ammonia so bad that the buyer returns it.
If your Big Mac ever tastes like pee, this is why.
The ammonia process is an invention of a single company called Beef Products Inc., which originally developed it as a way to use the absolute cheapest parts of the animal, instead of that silly "prime cuts" stuff the competitors were offering (and the restaurant chains swear we're still getting). Consequently, Beef Products Inc. has pretty much cornered the burger patty market in the U.S. to the point that 70 percent of all burger patties out there are made by them. Thanks, ammonia!